A Christmas list for pop and rock fans

Sound check

December 19, 1991

So you know it's getting a little late and you really don't have a lot of money to spend on your distant relative.

Well, if he or she has an affinity for pop and rock music, here are some helpful hints from the top shelf.

Remember, these are just the winners:

* Nirvana's "Nevermind" is one of the hottest selling records this season. This Seattle trio, possibly the next Guns N' Roses, mixes punk, thrash and straight-ahead rock 'n' roll.

* Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion I and II" is sold as two separate units. Rock's outlaw act of the '90s have given new meaning to hard sell. If both aren't in your budget, opt for the more melodic Part I.

* U2 "Achtung Baby." Four years ago this was the band that was all the rage, but the excitement seems to have worn off just a tad. If your target likes their rock a little on the danceable side, try this one. But if he liked "War" or "The Unforgettable Fire," you might want to reconsider. This is a different band.

* Bob Seger's "The Fire Inside" is another introspective, thoughful album from one of rock's most consistent performers. This mix of ballads and rockers is not for the adolescent, but perfect for former adolescent who grew up.

* Bryan Adams' "Waking Up The Neighbours" is his best work since 1984's "Reckless." Consistently great guitar riffs and Adams' screeching, scratching voice is at its digital peak on the CD.

* John Mellancamp "Whenever We Wanted." We've been waiting since "Uh, Huh" for the former Cougar to impress us with some more old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. This one delivers the punch and riff of "Hurts So Good" with the thoughtfulness of the best material from "Scarecrow." Perhaps the best of the bunch.

* Color Me Badd's "C.M.B." is a sure winner for that 14-year-old girl in your life who doesn't already own this one. The quartet is a mix of powerful, soulful voices. Last year's New Kids on The Block fan is this year's Color Me Badd addict.

* Smithereens "Blow Up" is another Beatlesque, three-minute pop song montage from the New Jersey quartet. It is without the harder edge of previous albums, but the variety and the wide range of guest instruments makes this one an interesting listen.

* Various Artists "Two Rooms." This Elton John tribute album features a host of hot shots covering the work of John and songwriter Bernie Taupin. Jon Bon Jovi's 'Levon" and The Who's "Saturday Night/Take Me to the Pilot" (you can actually understand the words when Roger Daltrey sings) have been very successful as singles.

* Curtis Stigers "Curtis Stigers." If you were thinking of grabbing the newest Michael Bolton album, try this one instead. His voice is dripping with soul and he plays a mean saxophone as well.

* The Cult "Ceremony." Guns N' Roses may have stolen drummer Matt Sorum, but they haven't killed the spirit of Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury. Its downfall is it sounds just like 1989's "Sonic Temple." But if that was good enough, then this is a good buy.

* White Trash "White Trash" is just fun, brassy, hard rock. No lyric sheet but a great album cover.

* Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers "Into The Great Wide Open." Making great albums doesn't seem to come easy for Petty anymore. It would be easy to overlook this one, but it's certainly worth owning.

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